Tuesday, Apr. 13, 2010

7th Circuit Judge Diane Wood

Of all the short-list candidates, Diane Wood is the one who most excites liberals and dismays conservatives, though even these reactions occur within a narrow range. "A Wood nomination would return the abortion wars to the Supreme Court," announced Americans United for Life on Friday, April 9, hours after Stevens announced his retirement. In particular, the group objected to Wood's dissent to a decision that upheld an informed-consent law in Indiana, as well as her dissents in opposition to partial-birth-abortion bans in Illinois and Wisconsin. She also clashed with the Supreme Court in its ruling that abortion providers could be awarded damages from pro-life protesters under racketeering statutes. During oral arguments in one case, Wood drew an analogy between a Christian group that denied membership to gay members and another club that might hypothetically deny membership to some people by declaring them "less than fully human."

But the conservative caricature of Wood as a sort of judicial extremist blurs the reality. She has earned praise from people across the ideological spectrum. In one recent case, Bloch v. Frischholz, Wood had dissented, arguing that condo residents had a federal claim of religious discrimination in response to a building rule that prohibited the hanging of a mezuzah, a traditional Jewish scroll, on a hallway doorframe. "She has the ideal judicial temperament," libertarian scholar Richard Epstein told the New Republic last year, when Wood was interviewed by Obama as a finalist for the seat that Sotomayor eventually won. A decade older than Kagan, Wood was born in New Jersey but has spent most of her career in Chicago, where she taught law school at the same time as Obama and now works as an appellate judge.